The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All on the lower overlook atop Mill Mountain, with downtown to the right and the McAfee profile just above her head.
This enjoyable, easy loop is always a good one for a rushed weekend where you get to reinforce how lucky Roanoke is to have the Appalachian Trail as close as 20 minutes away, but also its own in-town trail system on its own in-town mountain just minutes from downtown. And here, within those 5 miles, you get 800 or so feet of elevation gain, woods and small streams, a pass by the zoo's back yard, a walk through the (pretty dormant on this day) mountain-top garden and a lunch with a great view out across the valley. And that's all before you start back down.
At the visitor center, we asked about the new-to-us, blazed trail to the right almost immediately after leaving the parking area at the base of the Star Connector. It's an extension of the Woodthrush, we were told, to keep people in the woods, if they wish, instead of walking the rock road between the parking lot and the water tank where you pick up the Woodthrush.
Up on top of the mountain, we appropriated the picnic table on the lower overlook, identifying mountains and landmarks as we ate.
On the way down, we had about given up on finding the new section of the Woodthrush until, just before you get to the road, there it is, angling left to avoid the road. Makes sense that it would be within sightline of the other part of the trail, just across the end point of the rock road.
Mill Mountain Trails: Star Connector, Woodthrush, Ridgeline, Star, Woodthrush. About 5 miles
How to get there: From Jefferson onto Walnut to Riverland Road to parking lot not far beyond the mini-Graceland model.